Friday, August 21, 2015

What to Know before Self-Publishing – Part Two – The Disadvantages

There was a time when self-publishing meant writing a book, then paying a subsidy publisher to print it.  The author had to cover the costs of editing, cover design, printing and marketing before the book was available to the public, often paying thousands of dollars to sell just a few books. 
However, while authors can still bypass the traditional agent/editor submission route, now they can also create a direct market online through print on demand and eBooks.  So while they still have to put together a quality product, there aren’t any up-front costs to print it.  A book is printed only if someone orders it, and the printing costs are taken out of the royalties the author receives, rather than as an up-front cost.
This article is part two of three on self-publishing.  Last week, we posted the advantages of self-publishing.  But as we know, everything has two sides.  This week's article covers the drawbacks.  Yes, there are always drawbacks. 

Here are some disadvantages

1.      Finding readers – If you go with a traditional publisher, especially series, they usually form a loyal fan base.  These readers buy time and again because they know what to expect from the series.  If you self-publish, you can’t draw on this built-in fan base.  You have to find your own readers.

2.      Competition - According to Bowker, 458,000 books were indie pubbed in 2013 in the US. That’s up 437% from 2008.  I would say that’s a little competition.  That said, if your book is quality, it will rise above the rest.  It’s important to hire an experienced editor who will help make your book the best it can be.

3.      Low sales as  result – Sales on eBooks and POD books aren’t as high as traditionally published books, partly because they don’t have the marketing dollars behind them that big publishing houses can offer.  If you understand going in that your book will probably not sell 50,000 copies, you’ll better accept your sales rates.  That isn’t to say it can’t happen.  But only you can decide how much marketing is worth the end result, since it’s all on you.

4.      If your book is bad, your reputation is ruined – Everyone is proud of their finished product.  But as the author, it’s difficult to step back sometimes and admit the writing or the plot may not be your best effort.  If you put a poor quality product out there, it’s difficult to overcome the bad reviews, even if the second book is markedly better.  Make sure you have other eyes (not family or friends) look over your book before you produce it.

5.      Marketing is on your own – While many large publishing houses are leaving more and more to the author, when you self-publish, it’s all on you.  You have to create swag, set up a Facebook page, schedule a blog tour, contact book stores for signings, and find speaking engagements.  None of this will be done for you.  So be prepared for some hard work.

6.      Distribution is on your own – Major publishers have a large distribution list.  Your book would automatically ship to major outlets. However, when you self-publish, your book will not be in retail stores.  It will only be available online.  And you will be responsible for finding some of those outlets.

7.      Everything is on your own – Yes, everything!  You are the writer, editor, publisher, marketer and all around go-to person.  There is no support staff to answer phones, respond to emails or make decisions on art work.  You are everyone in the process.

8.      No advances – Most publishers offer an advance to authors when they contract them to write a book.  The amount varies, depending on the author and sales history.  The advance can be used to start marketing your book, money you won’t have if you self-publish.  The costs are all on you.  Which brings us to the next point:

9.      It costs money – And we’re not talking a few hundred dollars.  To hire a quality editor, a good graphic artist, a photographer for your head shot, etc., all costs money.  And unless you sell thousands of copies, you may not make that money back.

10.  Stress – Considering all this, it’s not surprising that the process can cause a lot of stress.  Unless you are prepared to handle these roadblocks, then the self-publishing process may not be for you.  Consider both time and money involved.
Don’t think, after all this though, that the process isn't worth the effort. 

Join us next week to learn how to balance the good with the bad to put out a quality product.

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